In the face of increased scrutiny brought about by two fatal police shootings in nearly as many years, Danville's Police Chief Allan Shields gave a presentation during the Town Council's regular meeting on Tuesday, where he described the training and recruitment procedures for local officers.
During Tuesday's meeting Shields explained that the long and short of these topics is that, while he is responsible for interviewing and approving officers who apply to work in Danville, officers are trained by and recruited from the ranks of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff -- who contract with the town for police services.
"Developing and maintaining relationships with the community that we serve is really the hallmark of law enforcement. Without public trust, we can not exist, and I do understand that and I hold that close to my heart," Shields said during Tuesday's nearly three-hour council meeting.
Danville PD and the sheriff's office have come under criticism from the public recently due to the fatal police shootings of two people of color in Danville in the past 2-1/2 years -- both of which involved the same deputy, Andrew Hall, who was criminally charged by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office earlier this month for his actions in the 2018 shooting.
"We will continue to advocate for transparency as these investigations move forward in every way that we can. Now I am going to preface that with saying that the town also finds itself in a situation where there is a criminal complaint involving the first incident and two civil lawsuits," Town Manager Joe Calabrigo said at Tuesday's meeting.
"So, from that standpoint and the standpoint that we are a party to those lawsuits, you can expect that we will continue to be careful with what we say and how we say it," he added
Calabrigo did add, however, that at this point Hall will not return to duty while he is facing criminal charges.
Shields and town staff mostly declined to comment on shootings past the aforementioned statement; however, many questions that related to the processes for training and recruiting officers were addressed during the chief's presentation.
For starters, Shields noted that Danville officers are selected from among the ranks of the sheriff's office from deputies who request to transfer to the town. While the sheriff's office would assign a deputy to the town if no one volunteered, Shields says that the town is seen as a generally desirable posting and that in his tenure every employee has volunteered to work in Danville.
"Typically employees are never forced to come to the town of Danville. In fact, I would say that in the last 10 years that I've been in and out of Danville in different capacities, we haven't forced somebody to come down here," Shields said. "I believe that it is a desirable assignment and attracts well-qualified people, and that's how we are able to maintain a full staff."
Deputies who apply for open positions in Danville are interviewed by Shields, with the selection methods eligible to be reviewed by the town manager.
The majority of officers recruited already have several years of experience in law enforcement before joining the town, according to Shields. He added that the officers also go through rigorous training regimes in addition to academy work. These training sessions cover Constitutional rights, racial and cultural diversity, crisis intervention and de-escalation, crowd control and unbecoming conduct, to name a few areas.
Shields also touched on how his department handles complaints made about officers and that, while he tries to personally handle issues with his staff, formal complaints can be logged and investigated through the Sheriff's internal investigations unit -- which itself is answerable to the Sheriff and undersheriff.
There are also policies in place that allow Shields to potentially transfer an officer who does not fit well in the Danville PD.
"We do have the ability to, if the relationship isn't working out, take an officer that would otherwise perform in another location and work with our team and sheriff's office, and try to find an assignment that might be more suitable to their interest and their needs," Shields said.
"Since I've been here, we haven't had to do that and I believe we haven't had to do that because of the selection side of people. This is a voluntary assignment," he added.
The policies and procedures, as well as the course curriculum for the classes Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputies are required to take, can be found online via the Sheriff’s Principled Policing webpage.
Despite it not being listed as an official agenda item, public comment during Tuesday's meeting largely revolved around the fatal police shootings of Laudemer Arboleda and Tyrell Wilson, who were both shot and killed by officer Hall at different times over the past two and a half years.
Among the comments were calls for increased transparency from the police department, condemnations of the decision making that allowed Hall back on the street where he would shoot Wilson and even some calls for the town to sever its connection with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
"It appears that the authority lies with the sheriff's office," Stephanie Taddeo said at the meeting. "It seems to me that the Town Council's hands are tied in terms of enacting much needed police reforms. Reform will be a long and arduous process that will require the help of experts. I see the road to reform made very difficult, if not impossible, if everything must be cleared and approved by the Sheriff. Has there ever been any serious consideration to the town creating its own police force, independent of the Sheriff's Office? If not maybe it's time for the town to make a change."
"Danville has become known as a place where many people of color do not feel safe," added resident Gus Gauntlett. "It hurts my heart and I assume it hurts your hearts too if you love your town, which I assume you do because y'all put a lot of time into being on the council. I'm saying this because we've seen another murder of a person of color with mental health issues. Clearly something is not working."
To this last point, Shields did mention in his report that officers do receive training in cultural equality and how to respond to mental health crises, with officers generally working at the county jail prior to transferring to Danville. At the county jail, according to Shields, is where they gain hands-on experience in working with people experiencing mental health issues.
"We have well-trained and professional staff by virtue of working in a jail setting, where we encounter massive amounts of people that are either in some sort of mental health crisis or crisis of addiction. I believe that not only do our officers get that technical training, but they get that immersive experience," Shields said.
Another issue that perturbed and confused many of the evening's speakers was how officer Hall was allowed to return to duty in 2018 after shooting Arboleda, particularly given the fact the Hall would go on to be involved in another fatal police shooting with Wilson two and a half years later -- these two incidents being the town's lone police shootings in 20 years.
"My concern with this presentation is that it in no way addresses any of the loopholes that cleared officer Hall of wrongdoing. We've been asking for transparency and this presentation offers absolutely zero insight into how officer Hall was cleared of wrongdoing, who cleared him and why," resident Natasha Verma said during the meeting's public comment section.
Hall was originally cleared for duty by the internal investigation by the Sheriff's Office only to have the district attorney file criminal charges on him last month.
Shields did not specifically comment on Hall's case, but did say that the Sheriff has a thorough process for investigating cases and complaints involving police officers.
Interested residents can view the entire presentation on Danville's website.